The United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments about civil forfeitures.

The question before the United States Supreme Court is whether citizens that have their property seized are entitled to a prompt hearing before a judge in order to get their property back.  Law enforcement agencies seize more than one billion dollars worth of property every year.  Property owners may challenge the seizures, but frequently wait months or years to do so.  The police often get to keep what they confiscate, and those assets have become an increasing percentage of operating budgets for some public safety agencies.  This case was brought by six people whose cars or money were seized in Chicago.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the plaintiffs were entitled to prompt hearings and the United States Supreme Court granted the Petition for Writ of Certiorari.  Alvarez v. Smith, No. 08-351.